January 29, 2013 10:07:50 AM
STARKVILLE -- "We just reverted back to our old ways, and this isn't the time to go back to our bad habits."
Those were the words of Mississippi State University freshman center Gavin Ware used to explain why MSU men's basketball coach Rick Ray called his players "selfish" and "wrapped up in our offense."
"It's about our agenda (and) the way we carry ourselves on and off the court," Ware said Monday. "As players, we have to come together and find that chemistry we had when we won those first two SEC games."
MSU (7-11, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) is the third-worst team in the country (No. 343) in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.56 assists per giveaway) this season.
In an 82-47 loss to then-No. 8 University of Florida on Saturday, Ray couldn't help but to shake his head as the Bulldogs struggled against a full-court press and a fast tempo.
"I think they are freshman, but I also just think we are not good enough to fall into that trap," Ray said. "If we shot the ball well then I could see go ahead and take that shot. We are the worst shooting team in the SEC, so it doesn't make sense to take that shot. Getting our guys to buy into that was the hard part. They didn't do it."
On the other side, Florida junior point guard Scott Wilbekin was named the SEC Player of the Week after he scored 13 points and finished with his third-straight game in double figures. He also had nine assists and was one assist shy of his second career double-double.
"I am not saying those guys are selfish throughout the whole course of the season," Ray said. "I don't want that to be a broad statement that our whole team is selfish or those guys in general are selfish. In that ballgame, we asked them to limit their possessions and not take those quick shots. They didn't do what we asked them to do, so they were being selfish at that point in time."
MSU freshman guard Craig Sword, one of three first-year college players forced into a big role, said Monday the Bulldogs are still learning Ray's style that slows the tempo against more experienced and talented teams.
"Sometimes we don't even realize we're being selfish," Sword said Monday. "Coach pointed out to us we have been doing a lot of selfish things on the court."
Ray has said he continues to be disappointed in the mental makeup of his basketball team, saying he "didn't believe his players thought they could win" against the SEC-leading Gators. MSU has one victory this season against an RPI Top 200 team, and has seven losses by 14 points or more.
"We have to get healthy about how we play in terms of the psyche of our team," Ray said. "I didn't think they had a belief in themselves, so we have to believe in ourselves."